Category Archive 'Class Warfare'
28 Aug 2022
Leighton Woodhouse, on his Social Studies Substack, identifies the PMC as the new Revolutionary Vanguard, dedicating to overthrowing the existing order of everything in order to seize power.
Coming Apart, a book I recently read by Charles Murray…, exhaustively documents the consolidation of what he calls “the new upper class,” by which he means not just the business owners but the managers, professionals, intellectuals and cultural creatives that we all recognize as Blue State America. He shows how, between 1960 and 2010, members of this class have clustered themselves into geographical bubbles in which they rarely have to interact with anyone outside of their general income and education level. That class segregation has carried over from neighborhoods into educational institutions, work sites, marriages, cultural pastimes, and, of course, political parties. Today, if you’re born into the professional elite (as I was in another era), it’s exceedingly easy to live your entire life, cradle to grave, without ever having an interaction more substantive than a commercial transaction with a member of the working class. And as Murray shows, while the new upper class has remained as prosperous and happy as its counterpart was six decades ago, on almost every important metric of social stability and personal happiness, the new lower class has plummeted, to the point at which working class “communities,” both urban and rural, have barely any social bonds left, but stunning levels of crime, violence, addiction, divorce, broken homes and unemployment.
There couldn’t be a clearer picture of a new “ruling class” than the one that Murray paints through his meticulous analyses of quantitative data. And that new ruling class doesn’t just exist objectively as, in Marx’s terminology, “a class in itself.” Today, it is very plainly a self-conscious “class for itself.”
As I explained in an earlier post, the reason why intellectuals tend to ally themselves in solidarity with the downtrodden and against the economically powerful is not because of some intrinsic enlightenment and abundance of empathy, but rather because by attacking the moral legitimacy of economic capital, they elevate the value of the cultural capital in which they possess an advantage. This was Bourdieu’s explanation for the default leftward political bias that prevails among the intelligentsia and the professional classes in general.
But even this pretense has seemed to largely vanish. Aside from a few radical chic gestures toward defunding the police and allying with trans “lives,” the professional managerial class has, over the last few years, stood in consistent and open opposition to the interests of the working class: the zealous support for Covid lockdowns and the indifference to the economic pain they caused, the insistence on vaccine mandates on threat of unemployment and the angry, authoritarian retaliation against anyone who dared to oppose them, the reflexive censorship of anyone who defied the authority of the expert class. Even when the PMC has acted in a spirit of ostensible generosity, it has been largely self-serving.
Aside from the occasional jab at culturally disfavored billionaires like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, the PMC and its political organ, the Democratic Party, has more or less abandoned even its performative opposition to the power of multinational corporations and finance capital. Nowadays, you’re more likely to find Republicans attacking huge corporations and Democrats defending them. The intra-elite struggle between the holders of economic capital and the holders of cultural capital seems to have become a thing of the past; the PMC, now indistinguishable from the capitalists, is finally behaving as a proper ruling class, acting politically in its own naked interests and either sneering at the ignorant proletarians or extending them a paternalistic hand. They may or may not outright own the means of production (a question for another post), but their control over the production process is so complete that it doesn’t really matter that much that its legal ownership is technically in the hands of various financial institutions, themselves controlled by the PMC. Albeit premature, this was exactly Burnham’s prediction.
In this context, the madness of woke discourse begins to make a little more sense. The foundational values that social justice activists have routinely maligned in recent years as outdated, reactionary or “white supremacist” are precisely those that were championed by the emergent capitalist class in the early modern period. Individualism, meritocracy, equality before the law, the Protestant work ethic — all have come under fire as pillars of oppression, in the same way that the cult of personal fealty and the entire moral code of feudalism was challenged by the rising bourgeoisie. Perhaps the rhetoric of the woke generation, then, is less about liberating the oppressed than it is about setting the table for a new ruling class and the new relations of production that that class will usher in. I don’t yet have a theory on how the specific tenets of wokeness favor managerial rule, but I suspect it has something to do with what Foucault calls “governmentality” (again, a subject for a future post).
02 Aug 2022
My residential college at Yale. A friend of mine used to remark ruefully that the rest of life constitutes a constant struggle to live as well as one did as an undergraduate at Yale.
Nick Burns agrees that our elite academic communities are out of touch and out of step with the rest of the country, and he thinks he can understand why.
I’d never been to Boulder, or visited the University of Colorado’s flagship campus there, but even from 30,000 feet, I could tell exactly where it started and ended. The red-tile roofs and quadrangles of the campus formed a little self-contained world, totally distinct from the grid of single-family homes that surrounded it.
In urban universities, the dividing line between the campus and the community can be even starker. At the University of Southern California, for example, students must check in with security officers when entering the gates of the university at night. At Yale, castle-like architecture makes the campus feel like a fortified enclave.
The elite American university today is a paradox: Even as concerns about social justice continue to preoccupy students and administrations, these universities often seem to be out of touch with the society they claim to care so much about. Many on the right and in the center believe universities have become ideological echo chambers. Some on the left see them as “sepulchers for radical thought.”
These critiques aren’t new — for generations people have thought of American universities as ivory towers, walled off from reality — but they’ve taken on new urgency as public debate over the state of higher education has intensified in recent years. Ideology and institutional culture get frequent attention, but a key factor is often ignored: geography.
The campus is a uniquely American invention. (The term originated in the late 1700s to describe Princeton.) Efforts to create separate environments for scholars came about at a time when elite American opinion was convinced that cities were hotbeds of moral corruption. Keeping students in rural areas and on self-contained campuses, it was thought, would protect their virtue.
Though such ideas have lost their appeal in recent years, to this day American universities are radically more isolated from their surrounding communities than their European counterparts are. And being situated around a strongly defined central campus, often featuring trademark Gothic-style architecture, remains a point of pride for elite American universities.
But what students and faculty gain in the enhanced sense of academic community that comes from campus life, they can lose in regular interaction with people who don’t dwell in the world of the academy. The campus, by design, restricts opportunities to encounter people from a wider range of professions, education levels and class backgrounds.
Of course, students like to spend time with other students, and scholars associate with other scholars. And that’s good for education and research. But there’s no need to enforce a geographical separation from society on top of it.
We all instinctively extrapolate insights from our own communities and day-to-day interactions, imagining they are true about the nation at large. Inevitably, that means our view of the country is a little distorted — but for those in the university, the distortions can be extreme. Stuck on campus, academics risk limiting their knowledge and toleration of a wider sweep of American society.
To put it another way, what’s most dangerous for the health of America’s intellectual elite is not that most professors have similar cultural tastes and similar liberal politics. That will probably always be the case. It’s that the campus setup makes it easy for them to forget that reasonable people often don’t share their outlook.
Student bodies and faculties have grown more diverse in recent decades, but that shouldn’t fool us into thinking elite universities have become microcosms of society: The highly educated are far more liberal than average Americans. The divide isn’t just political: Whatever their socioeconomic backgrounds, students and professors have daily routines that are very different from those of lawyers, shopkeepers or manual laborers — and that shapes their worldviews.
Life at a university with a dominant central campus can also narrow students’ views on the world, especially at colleges where most undergraduates live on campus. Letting the university take care of all of students’ needs — food, housing, health care, policing, punishing misbehavior — can be infantilizing for young adults. Worse, it warps students’ political thinking to eat food that simply materializes in front of them and live in residence halls that others keep clean.
It also takes away the chance to encounter people with different roles in society, from retail workers to landlords — interactions that would remind them they won’t be students forever and open questions about the social relevance of the ideas they encounter in the university.
I think he overlooks the consideration that Academia offers a sheltered, highly privileged and prestigious, if financially modest, life style that is particularly appealing to neurotics, inverts, and perennially malcontent cranks.
The ability to churn out large quantities of verbiage is the key requirement, and it is the colorfulness, the outrageousness, the making a splash of some kind, not the qualities of soundness or wisdom, that command the greatest attention and rewards.
That is why catastrophist charlatans like Paul Erlich and complete loonies like Peter Singer wind up occupying endowed chairs in top universities and showered with honors.
12 Jul 2022
Curtis Yarvin (aka Mencius Moldbug) is brilliant, but, alas! ungodly prolix, addicted to digressions, and someone who does not self-edit. His latest Substack special combines his characteristic witty insight with all of the above mentioned flaws.
This one may be partially pay-walled, but in this case that could be a feature rather than a bug.
The customary color-coding of the culture war is boring. Let’s get Tolkien-pilled and talk not about red and blue, but hobbits and elves. …
We know who are the hobbits and who are the elves. We know who is on top and who is on the bottom. (Of dwarves and orcs, we shall not speak.) We know what the elves want: they want to live beautiful lives. We know what the hobbits want: they want to grill and raise kids.
Dear hobbits: you can only lose the culture war. Even when elves use political power to impose elf culture on you, you cannot use political power to impose hobbit culture on elves.
I mean, sometimes (rarely) you can. It never works out well. I suppose that in theory you could massacre all the elves. You don’t seem up for that in practice. As an elf… I have to regard that as a good thing. But it leaves you, dear hobbits, in a real bind.
If there was a way to impose hobbit culture only on hobbits, there might be a case. But our country is not configured to support separate rules for elves and hobbits. If it was, it would be a different country. Maybe a better country—but it isn’t.
The only way to impose hobbit culture is to impose it on everyone—including elves. Elves do not like to be told what to do by hobbits. Even advice makes elves mad. It is outrageous and disrespectful. And when hobbits coerce elves… utterly unacceptable. Even if any such coercion is only symbolic, it is a profound violation of elven rights. Your elf will not just be mad—he will explode—wronged in every fiber of his being. … Read the rest of this entry »
27 Jun 2022
Not very, as the tweet above demonstrates. Defenseless? That tweet’s author seems to have no clue how many guns there are in rural America and how many people prepared to use them. Not to mention, how many backhoes.
11 Feb 2022
The Ceausescus facing the firing squad.
We live in remarkable times. The Establishment Left has gone so far off the rails that it has actually turned several of the most active and talented left-wing journalists into outsider opponents.
Matt Taibbi (one of the most conspicuous examples of the honest leftist, like George Orwell, who has had enough and changed sides) sees History repeating itself again (this time as Comedy).
On the morning of the 21st of December, 1989, Romanian General Secretary Nicolae Ceaușescu was in a foul mood. The Berlin Wall had fallen, and Mikhail Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush had recently announced the end of the Cold War, making the end of Ceaușescu’s rule inevitable, though he couldn’t see this yet. Worse, his security leaders had just failed to violently put down protests in the city of Timisoara, a fact that enraged his wife Elena.
“You should have fired on them, and had they fallen, you should have taken them and shoved them into a cellar,” she said. “Weren’t you told that?”
Long one of the world’s most vicious dictators, Ceaușescu’s most recent plan for winning over the heartland was forcing half the country’s villagers to destroy their own homes — with pick-axes and hammers, if they couldn’t afford a bulldozer — and packing them into project apartments in new “agro-industrial towns,” for a “better future.” Despite this, and his long history of murder, terror, and spying, Ceaușescu to the end did not grasp that his unpopularity had an organic character. He was convinced ethnically Hungarian “terrorists” were behind the latest trouble.
After reaching the balcony of Bucharest’s Central Committee building to give a speech that December day, he’s genuinely surprised when the crowd turns on him. When he tells them to be quiet, he’s befuddled by their refusal, saying, “What, you can’t hear?” Elena jumps in and yells, “Silence!”, to which Ceaușescu, hilariously, replies, “Shut up!” The crowd listens to neither of them.
Paul Kenyon’s Children of the Night describes the morbid black comedy that ensued. The Ceaușescus and a motley gang of undead apparatchiks that included the “morbidly obese Prime Minister, Emil Bobu” later tried to load into a single helicopter — Bobu “waddled, walrus-like, to the rear” Kenyon writes — but there were too many of them, and the copter barely got off the ground. “Where to?” asked the pilot, and nobody knew, because there was no plan, since none of them had ever considered the possibility of this happening.
The sky was full of stuff, including other helicopters, which were dropping leaflets on the crowd giving what Kenyon described as a Marie Antoinette-like order to ignore “imperialist conspiracies” and return home “to a Christmas feast.” Four days later, a firing squad put the Ceaușescus against a wall and gave them their final, solid lead Christmas presents.
Ceaușescu’s balcony will forever be a symbol of elite cluelessness. Even in the face of the gravest danger, a certain kind of ruler will never be able to see the last salvo coming, if doing so requires any self-examination. The neoliberal political establishment in most of the Western world, the subject of repeat populist revolts of rising intensity in recent years, seems to suffer from the same disability.
There may be no real-world comparison between a blood-soaked monster like Ceaușescu and a bumbling ball-scratcher like Joe Biden, or an honorarium-gobbling technocrat like Hillary Clinton, or a Handsome Dan investment banker like Emmanuel Macron, or an effete pseudo-intellectual like Justin Trudeau. Still, the ongoing inability of these leaders to see the math of populist uprisings absolutely recalls that infamous scene in Bucharest. From Brexit to the election of Donald Trump to, now, the descent of thousands of Canadian truckers upon the capital city of Ottawa to confront Trudeau, a consistent theme has been the refusal to admit — not even to us, but to themselves — the numerical truth of what they’re dealing with.
Trudeau is becoming the ultimate example. Truckers last month began protesting a January 22nd rule that required the production of vaccine passports before crossing the U.S.-Canadian border. Canadian truckers are reportedly 90% vaccinated, above the country’s 78% total, a key detail that’s been brazenly ignored by media in both countries determined to depict these more as “anti-vax” than “anti-mandate” protests (which seem to be about many things at once, but that’s another story). When an angry convoy descended upon the capital, Trudeau dismissed them in a soliloquy that can only be described as inspired political arson:
The small fringe minority of people who are on their way to Ottawa, who are holding unacceptable views that they are expressing, do not represent the views of Canadians…who know that following the science and stepping up to protect each other is the best way to ensure our rights, our freedoms, our values as a country.
A near-exact repeat of the “basket of deplorables” episode, Trudeau’s imperious description of “unacceptable” views instantly became a rallying cry, with people across the country lining the streets to cheer truckers while self-identifying as the “small fringe minority.” Everyone from high school kids to farmers and teachers and random marchers carrying jerrycans of fuel joined in as Trudeau’s own words were used to massively accelerate his troubles.
12 Oct 2021
Richard Hanania explains why both the social and legal system keep ratcheting up stricter and more totalitarian standards of Wokeness and punishment for Wrong Speech.
[F]ew regulators and lawmakers responsible for the state of civil rights law intended to create a world where schools are teaching that punctuality and hard work are racist. But by getting government into the field of social engineering and making hurt feelings a matter of law, they set us on the path to modern wokeness. … Read the rest of this entry »
11 Dec 2020
Zman feels the winds of change rising, as the national division between rural and urban, elite establishment and worthiness widen and deepen.
For generations, the source of conflict in the American political system is that it represents a small slice of the American people. The Yankee elite that rose up in the aftermath of the Civil War, later joined by Jews in the 20th century, represents not only a narrow cultural slice of American society, but a narrow economic slice as well. Since the end of the Cold War this has become acute. In 30 years, there have been three major reformist movements attempting to broaden the ruling coalition.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but Ross Perot was in many respects the prototype for Donald Trump’s 2016 run. Perot ran as an outsider, on the back of his folksy observations about the federal government. Despite being very rich, he was clearly a man of the lower classes. His picaresque presentation was very appealing to a large portion of the population open to populist appeals. If not for his enigmatic personality, he probably would have won the White House in 1992.
Of course, what opened the door for Perot’s 1992 run was the Buchanan challenge to George H. W. Bush in the Republican primary. When asked why he was running against Bush he said, “If the country wants to go in a liberal direction, it doesn’t bother me as long as I’ve made the best case I can. What I can’t stand are the backroom deals. They’re all in on it, the insider game, the establishment game—this is what we’re running against.” That should sound familiar.
Both of those efforts to broaden the establishment coalition to include the majority of white Americans failed, but they set up the 2016 Trump run. …
What we have seen thus far in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War is two of the three ways people can attempt to broaden the ruling coalition. Both are reform efforts that start outside with the desire to end up inside. Perot wanted to bring in new people, who would represent the broader public. Buchanan and Trump both wanted to reform the system by reforming one of the parties. Buchanan wanted a genuine right-wing party, while Trump wanted a populist party.
The third way, of course, is the purely outsider movement. This is when the unrepresented create an alternative outside the ruling coalition. They either peacefully compel the ruling elite to acknowledge their interests or they replace the ruling elite, and the system they rule, with a new elite and a new system. This is exactly what happened with the American Revolution. A new elite replaced the old elite and created a system that worked for them to replace the old system.
This is what makes the current moment so dangerous. Within one generation three efforts to broaden the ruling coalition have failed, while the condition of the unrepresented has declined. Just as important, the number of people feeling threatened by the status quo has increased. In the 1990’s, reformers were speaking for the white working class. Today, it is the broader middle-class that is becoming increasingly radicalized by the intransigence of the ruling class.
Rush Limbaugh, too, is beginning to despair of there being any possibility of national coexistence, let alone unity.
I thought you were asking me something else when you said, “Can we win?” I thought you meant, “Can we win the culture, can we dominate the culture.” I actually think — and I’ve referenced this, I’ve alluded to this a couple of times because I’ve seen others allude to this — I actually think that we’re trending toward secession. I see more and more people asking what in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York? What is there that makes us believe that there is enough of us there to even have a chance at winning New York? Especially if you’re talking about votes.
I see a lot of bloggers — I can’t think of names right now — a lot of bloggers have written extensively about how distant and separated and how much more separated our culture is becoming politically and that it can’t go on this way. There cannot be a peaceful coexistence of two completely different theories of life, theories of government, theories of how we manage our affairs. We can’t be in this dire a conflict without something giving somewhere along the way.
And I know that there’s a sizable and growing sentiment for people who believe that that is where we’re headed, whether we want to or not — whether we want to go there or not. I myself haven’t made up my mind. I still haven’t given up the idea that we are the majority and that all we have to do is find a way to unite and win, and our problem is the fact that there are just so many RINOs, so many Republicans in the Washington establishment who will do anything to maintain their membership in the establishment because of the perks and the opportunities that are presented for their kids and so forth.
19 Nov 2020
James B. Meigs, in City Journal, describes the way Progressive generosity tends to penalize good conduct and playing by the rules. Relaxation of standards and selective release from conventional obligations of democrat constituencies that complain, he predicts, inevitably infuriates salt of the earth ordinary Americans who earned everything they have and who accept the world as it is without claiming victim status.
Last January, a small but telling exchange took place at an Elizabeth Warren campaign event in Grimes, Iowa. At the time, Warren was attracting support from the Democratic Partyâ€™s left flank, with her bulging portfolio of progressive proposals. â€œWarren Has a Plan for Thatâ€ read her campaign T-shirts. The biggest buzz surrounded her $1.25 trillion plan to pay off student-loan debt for most Americans.
A man approached Warren with a question. â€œMy daughter is getting out of school. Iâ€™ve saved all my money [so that] she doesnâ€™t have any student loans. Am I going to get my money back?â€
â€œOf course not,â€ Warren replied.
â€œSo youâ€™re going to pay for people who didnâ€™t save any money, and those of us who did the right thing get screwed?â€
A video of the exchange went viral. It summed up the frustration many feel over the way progressive policies so often benefit select groups, while subtly undermining others. Saving money to send your children to college used to be considered a hallmark of middle-class responsibility. By subsidizing people who run up large debts, Warrenâ€™s policy would penalize those who took that responsibility seriously. â€œYouâ€™re laughing at me,â€ the man said, when Warren seemed to wave off his concerns. â€œThatâ€™s exactly what youâ€™re doing. We did the right thing and we get screwed.â€
That father was expressing an emotion growing more common these days: he felt like a chump. Feeling like a chump doesnâ€™t just mean being upset that your taxes are rising or annoyed that youâ€™re missing out on some windfall. Itâ€™s more visceral than that. People feel like chumps when they believe that theyâ€™ve played a game by the rules, only to discover that the game is rigged. Not only are they losing, they realize, but their good sportsmanship is being exploited. The players flouting the rules are the ones who get the trophy. Like that Iowa dad, the chumps of modern America feel that the life choices theyâ€™re most proud ofâ€”working hard, taking care of their families, being good citizensâ€”arenâ€™t just undervalued, but scorned.
06 Nov 2020
Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: The Consummation, 1836, The New York Historical Society.
Pedro Gonzalez pessimistically describes the inexorable advance of the credentialed class of sophisters, calculators, and economists whose interests inevitably coincide with the cause of collectivist statism.
Before the storm of steel that was World War I, Robert Nisbet wrote that the federal government, for most Americans, was a strangerâ€”something they mainly encountered only on visits to the post office. This may be hard for us to fathom now, we who have been born and raised long after the chains of industrial and technological conglomeration crushed the social, cultural, and political independence middle America knew just a few generations ago.
Different thinkers gave different names to this revolution of mass and scale in virtually all areas of organized human activity. James Burnham heralded its rise, as a system that would replace capitalism not with socialism but â€œmanagerialism.â€
Burnham defined managerialism as the centralization of society in which the distinction between the state and the economy is eliminated, the separation of ownership and control is effected, and, most importantly, powerâ€”real powerâ€”rests in the hands of â€œmanagers.â€
If it seems there is little room for republicanism or constitutionalism in this scheme, thatâ€™s because there isnâ€™t. â€œAmerica still has a written constitution, but it is nearly impossible, theoretically or politically, to comprehend the distinction between the government and the Constitution,â€ John Marini writes. â€œThe theoretical foundations of social compact theory have been so undermined as to make constitutionalism obsolete as a political theory.â€
Demystified, the â€œmanagersâ€ of our post-constitutional cruise through the truculent waters at the end of history are business executives, technicians, bureaucrats, journalists, administrators; the whole host of technically trained experts who constitute the credentialed class which produces nothing and owns little but without whom mass society would not function.
â€œAgricultural and industrial societies always had their unhappy intellectualsâ€”lawyers, clerks, teachers, radical journalistsâ€”men whose profits lay in ideas rather than things, and who were thus in the vanguard of upheavals and demands for reform,â€ Kevin P. Phillips wrote in Mediacracy. â€œBut the intelligentsia was always a small subclass, influential at times when it could channel public unrest, otherwise subordinate.â€ Now the managers throttle their enemies with the levers of power and, to a large extent, manage unrest while overseeing the managed deconstruction of the civilization they did not build but inherited.
They are winning because they have accomplished the Gramscian Long March and control the institutions that define the Culture.
16 Jul 2020
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak was photographed working, with a $179.95 Coffee Mug on his desk.
Class warfare is popular in Britain, and the current Tory Chancellor inadvertently afforded Labourites a chance to mau-mau him by letting the Press catch sight of an expensive high-tech self-heating coffee mug (the Ember travel mug) sitting on his desk.
[[T]he current chancellor, Rishi Sunak, appears to have gone one step further in the traditional pre-budget photo opportunity by posing with a â€œsmart mugâ€ costing Â£180.
A series of snaps released by the Treasury show Sunak at work, with the expensive gadget on his desk as he pores over the details of the mini-budget he will deliver to the Commons on Wednesday.
The Ember travel mug, reportedly a gift from his wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of a billionaire businessman, retails for up to Â£179.95 online, with a product description boasting that it â€œdoes more than simply keep your coffee hotâ€.
It adds: â€œOur smart mug allows you to set an exact drinking temperature and keeps it there for up to three hours, so your coffee is never too hot, or too cold.â€ The 355ml mug is apparently dishwasher safe and even includes a charging coaster.
Rupert Hawksley, in the Spectator:
Rishi Sunak found himself in hot water last week, though fortunately it was not too hot. Just the right temperature, in fact. The Chancellor was photographed at his desk with a Â£180 â€˜smart mugâ€™, which keeps his drink somewhere between 50Â°C and 62.5Â°C for up to three hours on the move or indefinitely if placed on its charging coaster. Very sensible, you might think; but some thought the picture was revealing. Labour MP Beth Winter was quick to point out that her mug, turquoise and shaped like a dinosaur, had cost just Â£3. â€˜No wonder,â€™ Winter tweeted, â€˜he said no when I asked him this week about a wealth tax.â€™
It being Britain, they probably drink their horrible tea with milk out of it.
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